Sromona Bhattacharyya Bhattacharyya
Hailing from Kolkata and now a resident of Bengaluru, Sromona is a multimedia journalist who has a knack for digging stories that truly deserve attention.
When Indranil Sengupta and his wife Rabia Tewari embarked on a mission to clean the Mahim beach in September 2017, they had an arduous task at hand. Two people, with absolutely no knowledge of cleaning beaches or the evils of plastic pollution, armed themselves with nothing but a pair of gloves to free this lesser-known Mumbai beach of plastic. What started as a two-people initiative in 2017 has now become a collective fight in 46 weeks time, where they have cleared 650 tonnes of plastic from the beach.
The Logical Indian spoke to Indranil Sengupta about his 46-week-old journey. When Indranil and Rabia shifted to their sea-facing Mahim apartment in July of 2017, the view was far from what they had imagined. Indranil is a former Viacom18 associate vice president who now runs a design firm and his wife, a merchandiser who returned from New York in 2011 and is now the business head at her husband’s firm.
With no trace of sand, it was only plastic that one could see on the Mahim beach. Indranil said that even though they tried to seek help from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), it was in vain. “The contractors who had been employed to clean the beach on a daily basis also showed laxity in their work, and it was then that my wife and I decided to take the matter in our own hands,” said Indranil.
Inspired by the work of Mumbai-based lawyer Afroz Shah who spearheaded the city’s largest beach clean-up drive, the couple along with two other volunteers from their building, started cleaning the one kilometre stretch between Mahim Dargah Lane to Hinduja Hospital on September 9, 2017. Since then, both Indranil and Rabia, along with a few other volunteers from adjoining areas have been cleaning the beach on Saturdays and Sundays between 8 am to 10 am.
Talking about the work, Indranil said, “The work is tiring, but instead of going to the mall or a pub, we clean the beach every weekend for a couple of hours.” More than anything, the couple wants to draw the civic authorities’, and even people’s attention to the Mahim beach which, he feels, remains neglected. However, the couple’s initiative has not been able to draw the kind of people participation that they had expected. With only 25 to 30 volunteers every weekend, Indranil and Rabia have not been able to go beyond the one-kilometre stretch.
However, harnessing the power of social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram, the duo has been urging more and more volunteers to join them in their bid to keep the beach clean. In fact, upon seeing the couple and other volunteers cleaning up the beach, BMC workers, too have started to chip in.
Over 46 weeks ago, all one could see at Mahim beach was trash. But after their continued efforts, the beach has been restored to its original state – glistening sand with no trace of plastic. However, to keep the beach garbage-free, Indranil and Rabia cannot stop their weekly drives as the backlog, Indranil said will be too much to control.
The beach is getting polluted because the Mithi river is heavily polluted. The river which has now been reduced to a garbage-carrying stream of water discharges into the Arabian Sea, close to Mahim beach. Indranil said that they have been pushing for the government to check the level of pollution in the river by installing a sort of filtration system.
Moreover, this lesser known beach, Indranil said, has become a haven for drug addicts. He said, “unlike more famous beaches, this one does not have any lights, which makes the beach unsafe as well.” Apart from ridding Mahim beach of plastic, the couple has also been urging the local police to start patrolling the beaches and install lights to make it safer for public use.
Although the recent ban on single-use plastic in Mumbai might help to curb the problem of pollution, Indranil and Rabia feel that everyone should do their bit in keeping public spaces clean. The need for collective social responsibility is more significant than ever, and Indranil said that they would continue with their efforts and they hope more citizens will join them. The duo is all set to celebrate the completion of the first year of Mahim Beach Clean Up initiative on September 15, 2018, which incidentally also happens to be Coastal Cleanup Day.
Plastic pollution in oceans and beaches is a man-made problem which should be rectified by collective human efforts. As in Indranil and Rabia’s case, not everything can be left up to the authorities. Sometimes, as citizens, we have to take initiatives to change the environment for the better. The Logical Indian commends Indranil Sengupta and Rabia Tewari’s efforts in leading the Mahim beach clean-up drive. We also urge the authorities to do their bit.
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